The Magic Highway


An Interview with Jeff Christie and Lorenzo Gabanizza
(conducted by Jason Barnard on his Strange Brew website).

Q: What was the recording and production process for I Don't Want To Live Without You and your previous singles?

JC: It was very much an international effort. Lorenzo is in Italy and I'm in the UK. Other musicians were in the UK and US with production in the US.

LG: I did first myself the acoustic guitar parts and pilot lead vocals and back vocals. Then, instrument after instrument like a puzzle.
    I had an idea from the start … and I wanted the song to sound as it sounded in my head, because I felt that any slight diversion from it would have negatively impacted the final result. I even wrote parts to the drummer, so that he may play it exactly the way I needed. Nothing is left to chance in this song.

Q: Can you tell us a little bit about the accompanying music video for the song and its creative direction?

JC: Again, Lorenzo did his in Italy, I did mine in Leeds, UK, at a friend's house who had a grand piano. I always sing 'live' when doing TV or video shoots, even into a dead mic, as it helps to give the performance of the track some authenticity. It also helps to get into the soul of the song rather than just miming which I always felt was a bit plastic.

Grand Piano

LB: Well, I think the video represents perfectly the meaning. I won't tell you the story, because I don't want to spoil the surprise for those who haven't seen it yet, but it really is a ghost story … or a love story, depending on the perspective in which you watch it.
    The video features me, Jeff and the talented Martina Sacchetti. Martina is a great actress who made her name on the big screen and in theatre and her ability to perfectly catch the deep "heart strings" is amazing.
    The direction is by Oscar Serio, who's a skilled and amazing director and videomaker. We had a long chat before starting the shooting. He had an idea, I had mine, we managed to meet halfway, if I can say so. Well, it's a powerful video and it's influenced by my love for Emily Bronte and her novel.
From the first shot you breathe a gloomy atmosphere, made up of deep, radical feelings, almost as deep as a burning centre of the earth. Those same feelings that make up the eternal and that permeate Emily's novel. I am particularly proud of our job, which has been recognised in multiple festivals already.

Q: How did you go about selecting the musicians including the Fortunate Gospel Choir (who sound fantastic) to perform on this single?

LG: When I chose Fortunate Gospel Choir, I had in mind the epic gospel tunes of Elvis and the amazing work of JD Sumner and above all, the Sweet Inspirations. The words that most represented the song were: large, deep, epic.
    While we were almost done with the recordings, I sensed that the song missed something. So, as Yokshire fogs were inspiring me, I contacted a talented piper born in the North West of England: Catherine Ashcroft. I asked her to play uillean pipes all along the song.
    Jeff did an outstanding job, his voice is top-notch and his interpretation beautiful. Same I may say for all the other involved: Kev Moore, who did a wonderful bass line with a 70's flavor; Paul Fenton, who laid down those drums as they should; Richard Curran and his strings, John Heinrich, Mike Casteel and Tanner Bayles with their precious contribution on winds.
    Everyone had his task and everyone did it at the best: for this reason, I thank them all and, last but not least, Stefano Bedini, who did take care of my recordings in Italy and the "Great Magician" Corey Moore. I am surprised he didn't get mad at me or, worst, he didn't lose his mind during the hard work, hours, days, trying to get closer and closer to my vision.

Q: Your previous collaborations have been very successful. Did you expect them to be so well received, and what do you think contributed to its popularity?

JC: For me the first and foremost level of success is the quality and performance of the song which I feel was achieved on all three of my collaborations with Lorenzo, regardless of other gains.
    If we did our job right that's the most important thing that really matters to me. Obviously, it's great to get approval and even some financial reward if only to offset what it costs us to do this work but if not, we'd still do it as it's lifeblood to those that are passionate about their craft of which we both are.

LG: Well, there are two parts of the story. One is what I expect for the song, two what I think the song deserve.
    If you consider my three singles with Jeff, well, trying not to think that it's my songs, they would deserve much more in terms of popularity. But when it comes to expectations, I never have a lot. I know the music market is made by some big brain up there and I am born in the wrong historic time to hope something for myself. I don't close the doors to hope, but I wait on nothing from the world.

Q: Throughout your musical journey, have there been any artists or musicians who have had a significant influence on your work or inspired you in any way?

JC: So many, but at the drop of a hat my influences start with an unbroken line from Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Mahler, Rachmaninov and Puccini, flamenco, fado and gypsy music, The Shadows, The Ventures, Duane Eddy, through to the Great American Songbook songwriters and on to the Brill Building songwriters, Bacharach and David, Goffin and King, Mann and Weill, plus Boudleaux Bryant/Orbison, Randy Newman, Jimmy Webb, Elvis, Little Richard, Buddy Holly, Larry Williams, Eddie Cochran, Holland Dozier Holland, and numerous Motown acts and writers plus lots of Northern Soul and into the '60s, with obviously Lennon/McCartney, Pete Townsend, Ray Davis, Brooker/Reid (Procol Harum), Henley/Frey, Becker/Fagin partnerships and on and on; sometimes great songs from artists that were just brilliant one-offs, but as you can see the list is endless. In one way or another all these great singers, writers and musicians inspired and informed my own education and progress in the art and craft of song writing and performance.

LG: Well, yes. Many indeed. Above all, there is an Olympus in which Zeus is Jeff Christie … joking here, but not so much.
    Jeff was my inspiration since my childhood, maybe even before as my mom loved his music before I had any knowledge of myself. My musical influences, they are as wide as the ocean. My parents had a monstrous collection of vinyl of every genre, from Italian popular music to twelve-tone music. And everything in between.
    Art is like a smell, it sticks to you, therefore, in a certain way, I have the artistic smell of what I have experienced and penetrated me over the years. If I should mention names, in music, I would Say: Jeff Christie on top of the mountain, Elvis Presley, Donovan, Bob Dylan, Neil Diamond, Johnny Rivers, Brian Hyland, Bread, Queen, Edith Piaf, Southern Comfort, and all that bright, romantic, poppish British music from the 70s like Marmalade, Stamford Bridge, Kincade, John Carter. Also classics, like Tchaikovsky, Sibelius, Grieg, Smetana, Chopin, Glinka or Irish music, Kate Bush …
    But you know, it's not like art and composition have limits. So, when I write a song, I don't just refer to my musical taste, but also to my literary taste, therefore, that's where what you call "unique sound" comes from. From my readings, from my love for Andersen's fairy tales, Celtic traditions, Capote's adamantine prose and Proust's swirling introspections; the delightful brushstrokes of Dickens, the tragic odes of Keats, the poetic abstractionism of Virginia Woolf and always, the moor of Emily, the scent of wet earth, of the fog, of the rock … everything contributes to form an aesthetic sense that it then explodes into creation.

Q: What do you think is the most important skill for a songwriter or musician to have?

JC: Obviously to begin with a passionate love for music and the overpowering need to create it, and next, to listen and learn from the greats how the process of song writing works, not just the ability to be instrumentally creative and proficient but on an emotional level.
    In short, the songwriter has to find a connect to the listener that is at some level primal and infectious, seducing the listener to internalise and possess that strange feelgood buzz from the song.     Maybe that sounds a little pretentious, but there really is some kind of magic alchemy in creating music and to try and explain that is tricky and more than a little mysterious.

LG: To create a bridge through their souls. In a certain way, a songwriter is a speaker, a communicator, so he has to tell the truth.
    Be true and have the skill to dig as deeper as possible. In few words, a good songwriter is the one that has his own voice and has the power to communicate to others his message.


The single was previewed on The Official US TOP 20 Radio Show.

Q: What can fans expect from your upcoming releases?

JC: I don't pretend to know what fan's expectations of our collaborations are. I can only say that as writers and artists we both follow our respective muses and hope people will like what we do.     Together and individually I believe we write for ourselves, in a way that has meaning for us as individuals. Surely isn't that the only honest way to be?

LG: Expect emotions, feelings, power, and much diversity.

Q: Jeff, I have some questions for you. What was your experience like working with Lorenzo? Did you find any similarities or differences in your musical styles?

JC: Lorenzo first and foremost is an artist of integrity and professionalism. It has been easy to work with him as he is fast and reliable and brings consistency and quality to the table. He has passion in spades and has a positive can-do attitude.
    He also has humility which is endearing, especially in an industry that is renowned for false prophets, egotists and the 'next big thing'.
    Obviously, we all have egos, but some more than necessary. Naturally we have our differences, musical and otherwise, but enough common denominators and a shared love of the many seminal musical influences for us to relate to that hopefully give us some credibility in what we do.

Q: What songs from your career are you the proudest to have written and why?

JC: Yellow River has been a song that over the years has brought forth all kinds of mixed emotions. There was a time when I wished it hadn't been the monster number 1 global hit because it's such a tough thing to follow and every song that comes after can be seen in some quarters as a failure if it isn't a chart-topper.
    Then I got over it when I saw how many big artists either recorded it or praised its worth and that gave me the time and distance to view it as so many others have done, and what is now generally perceived in the music industry to be a classic from arguably one of the greatest popular music eras.
    That said I am proud of what I feel, is to have over the years progressed my ability to write good songs that have their influences firmly rooted in a golden age of songwriting that I was fortunate enough to be allowed access to.
    I have recently just completed an album of original songs over the last three years that I am very proud of and as I'm the strictest quality control enforcer I know and trust, at least in my mind, it says something, at least to me, that I can still get that all important buzz listening to them.
    Some of the other older songs I'm proud of would be Freewheeling' Man, Inside Looking Out, Pleasure and Pain, For All Mankind, If Only, Until The Dawn, Fool, Set Yourself Free, Wild Grows The Heather, Troubadour, Back On The Boards, Another Point Of View, Turning To Stone. All these songs are previously released and available on Spotify and other digital platforms as well as CD and vinyl by either Christie or Jeff Christie/Outer Limits.

Q: Could you share any memorable moments from your time touring and performing with Christie? Any particular shows or moments that stand out to you?

JC: So many from the touring days of the '60's and 70's, '90's and noughties and too many to include here, but a few standouts were touring with Hendrix whilst in the Outer Limits in the '60s, when one Ian Kilmister would try and augment his roadie income by tapping everyone up for a fiver: eventually obtaining the name Lemmy as his first line of conversation would invariably be 'Lemme a fiver pal'. Don't know if he ever tried it on with Jimi.



    Outdrawing Santana in Bogotá in the 70's and then being supported on tour by upcoming crooner and heartthrob Julio Iglesias. Having to have oxygen cylinders on stage with two nurses at some of our stadium shows in Columbia due to the high altitude. After every other number we'd have to take a few steps to the side of the stage to get a blast of O2 from the nurse who duly administered it through some kind of breathing mask like the WW 2 pilots had to wear, and then bounce back for the next number.
    Touring Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Columbia then rolling on to Mexico, Honduras, Nicaragua and Guatemala in the early '70s. Also being one of the first bands to play in Poland-whilst that country was still under communist rule from the Soviet Union. We did a TV Spectacular from Sopot that was beamed via satellite right across the USSR in 1970, and when Christie played in Russia in 2001, people were coming up to me saying they'd seen us on that same Sopot TV Show in 1970 and had waited all that time to see us performing live in Moscow and St Petersburg. That was a memorable and unforgettable experience, humbling also.

Q: How does it feel to hear your songs interpreted by different musicians, and do you have any favourite covers of your work?

JC: Well, from a starting point, if you accept that imitation is the highest form of flattery then obviously that is very pleasing thought, even though many are straight copies.
    There are some that are quite imaginative and there are many examples of artists and musicians who pick up on not just the most well-known hit songs but more obscure ones from previous albums.     They are the ones that I find intriguing and often more satisfying. There are instrumentalists that just play along either on drums or other various instruments to some of these songs also, which always amazes me after 50 odd years.
    One of the biggest '60s hit recording Liverpool bands, The Searchers, recorded a demo of one of my old Outer Limits songs called The Great Train Robbery from the late '60s even though they never released it. The BBC banned the Outer Limits version even though the Stones manager Andrew Oldham produced it; and the West Coast band, The Hondells, did a great 'Beach Boys' version of Just One More Chance, another Outer Limits song of mine. Then obviously people like Elton John and REM covering Yellow River as well as hundreds of others including Cliff Richard and Joe Dassin, who was a massive star in France and all French-speaking territories. Also people like Lobo, various Tejano and Mariachi bands and a host of bluegrass covers of which the definitive version for me is the Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver version.

Q: Lorenzo, in addition to being a musician, you have also been involved in fundraising efforts and supporting good causes. Can you tell us more about this work and its importance to you?

LG: I have long been a member of many historical and humanitarian associations and right now, I am involved with Minds Behind The Music, in which Jeff too is, along with other giants like Status Quo, Suzi Quatro, Mungo Jerry etc. You know, sometimes, it doesn't matter if you're big or not, if it's a lifelong commitment or one day long; it's the last stone to build the castle. And well, there's so much injustice and violence in our world that we have a lot of work to do but, art is there and hope is here. No matter what.